8 Reasons to Visit Canada in 2017

Driving the Icefields Parkway in Canada
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Late last year, Lonely Planet released its “Best in Travel” lists for 2017. And at the top of its Top 10 Countries list – claiming the coveted #1 spot as the top country to visit this year – was Canada.

At first, some people were like “… Canada? Really?” But I understand Lonely Planet's pick.

Not only is Canada kind of, well, awesome, but this year also marks Canada's 150th birthday. And what better way to celebrate than with a trip to the Great White North?

Dogsledding with Wapusk Adventures in Churchill, Manitoba

Dogsledding in Manitoba

Niagara Falls from above

Niagara Falls from above

If you still need some convincing, though, I've put together a list of all the great reasons why you should definitely visit Canada this year.

1. It's NOT the same as the US

For anyone who tries to use the argument that Canada is basically just the-US-but-colder (or USA Lite or America's Hat or any of those other silly things), let me point out that these are two very distinct countries with different histories, cultures, and traditions. Yes, many of us speak the same language, and yes, our border is an incredibly peaceful one. But Canada is not the USA, and visiting or living in one country definitely doesn't mean you've experienced the other.

Banff, Alberta

Banff, Alberta

2. It has its own history

Even though Canada has only been a nation for 150 years, people have been living there for thousands of years. Just like different regions of the US have ties to different Native American tribes, so too are Canada's provinces connected to its First Nations people. Most major museums in Canada explore this history, which is really fascinating considering the harsh conditions experienced in most parts of Canada for a majority of the year.

Totem poles in Stanley Park

Totem poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver

Add to this native history strong French and British influences, and Canada's cities and provinces all have their own distinct atmospheres. Canada also remains part of the British Commonwealth, with ties to the United Kingdom.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Parliament Hill in Ottawa

3. Canadians are SO nice

Like, seriously, the nicest. If you bump into one of them in a crowded space, THEY will probably apologize to YOU. It's just how they are.

Two years ago, I took a train trip across western Canada and ended up with one free day in Alberta, and one of my Canadian friends drove more than four hours (one way) just so she could take me to some of her favorite lakes in Banff. I can sometimes barely convince my American friends to drive an hour to come see me near Cleveland!

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake, one of the lakes my friend took me to!

4. It's extremely safe

There's a reason why I included Canada on my list of great places for solo female travelers: it's an incredibly safe country. While the United States has some scary issues with gun violence among its citizens, our northern neighbor by contrast is much more peaceful. (Maybe it goes back to the ridiculously nice people?)

Wildflowers in Canada

Wildflowers in Kelowna, BC

5. The nature is incredible

From the temperate rainforests on the west coast to the soaring Canadian Rockies to the vast prairies to the striking Atlantic coast in the east, Canada really does have some damn impressive scenery. And the scenery *feels* bigger, too – probably because even though Canada covers 3.85 million square miles, it only has a population of just a little over 35 million.

Moraine Lake in the morning

Moraine Lake in Alberta

Peggys Cove Lighthouse in Nova Scotia, Canada

Peggys Cove in Nova Scotia

Sea caves in St. Martins, New Brunswick

Sea caves in St. Martins, New Brunswick

It has some really impressive wildlife, like moose and polar bears, and is also a great place to glimpse the Northern Lights in the winter months.

The Northern Lights in Churchill, Manitoba

The Northern Lights in Churchill, Manitoba

And another reason to visit Canada in 2017 is that all of the country's national parks are free to visit this year. (Yes, FREE!) You can order your free parks pass here.

6. Cool, diverse cities

On top of Canada's amazing nature, it also has really cool cities. From Vancouver to Calgary to Toronto to Montreal, Canadian cities are just as visit-worthy as its national parks. And, while cities like Vancouver aren't necessarily the most affordable places to call home, Canada's major cities always make it onto top 10 lists of “most livable cities in the world” each year.

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto, Ontario

Rideau Canal locks in Ottawa

Rideau Canal locks in Ottawa

So, along with simply saying that Canada has cool cities, you can also say that the people who live in them enjoy a pretty high quality of life. (Maybe that's what makes them so nice!)

Granville Island, Vancouver

Granville Island, Vancouver

7. Fun annual festivals

Speaking of Canada's cities, many of them host some pretty cool (and unique) festivals each year. Some of my favorites include:

  • The Quebec Winter Carnival in Quebec City (January/February)
  • Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg (February)
  • The International Tulip Festival in Ottawa (May)
  • Montreal Jazz Fest (June/July)
  • The Calgary Stampede (July)
  • The Toronto International Film Festival (September)
  • The Celtic Colours International Festival on Cape Breton Island (October)
International Tulip Festival in Ottawa

International Tulip Festival in Ottawa

In short, Canadians love any excuse to come together and celebrate.

8. It's crazy affordable right now

Lastly, taking current exchange rates into account, Canada is really affordable right now for Americans, Europeans, and even Australians (right now $1 USD is equivalent to about $1.30 CAD).

This hasn't always been the case, so if you've been considering a trip to Canada, now is definitely the time to go!

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver

Need even MORE inspiration? Here are some of my favorite posts about Canada that you should probably check out:

And find even more Canada posts here.

Who's planning a trip to Canada this year?

 

Reasons to visit Canada this year

 

45 Comments

  • Ijana Loss says:

    Yeah most times I bring up maybe traveling to Canada everyone is always like “but you could go somewhere further away and more exotic!” But the scenery is a big one for me, I love love love cool nature stuff and Canada just has tons of that. So I definitely want to make it there soon!

  • Dominique says:

    Gorgeous photography as always, Amanda! Canada is on my list, but the country is so big I don’t know where to start. I bought a Lonely Planet once with the intention of going, but I never actually booked. I’m sure I’ll make my way there a couple of times of the next years! Unfortunately not 2017 though, even though free National Parks do sound great!
    Dominique recently posted..Vatnajökull National Park – Misadventures of Glacier Hiking

    • Amanda says:

      I think with Canada (as with any huge country), you need to tackle it in pieces. Visit one region or province at a time. A good place to start is in the west, I think – you could go to Vancouver and maybe Whistler, and then make your way into the Rockies and Alberta! That would be a great first trip, as you’d experience cities AND some of that incredible nature.

  • Canada! My home and native land!!
    Kara @ Creative Heart Travel recently posted..Sometimes You Just Have to Keep Going

  • Kate Gentle says:

    Amazing pictures! The free parks pass for 2017 is an awesome incentive. So many from coast to coast.

  • Sabrina says:

    I’m going on a Road Trip through Canada this year! After finishing my studies i will take this break as a reward <3
    22.000 Kilometers from Toronto passing Prince-Edward-Island, Nova Scotia, Vancouver, Vancouver Island and up to Alaska with Anchorage and Fairbanks… and a lot of other stops 😀 O_O
    We are also visiting Churchill to snorkel with belugas and hopefully see some polar bears.
    I'm SO excited, can't wait to go 🙂

  • I have never had a bad time in Canada…always a fun place to visit!
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..Kayak Camping in Baja Mexico

    • Amanda says:

      Other than the trouble I always have to have at the border (Canadian immigration officers really don’t seem to like me!), I’ve also never had a bad time in Canada.

      • Rob says:

        You can solve much of that border problem with a $50 NEXUS card. And you’ll get US Global Entry as a bonus. Since getting my NEXUS card in 2008(!) I have only ever spoken to a Canadian (or American) border guard for about 10 seconds when driving across the border.

        Pro tip: even the small border crossings without NEXUS lanes often have NEXUS *readers* and while the car in front of you is getting the 3rd degree you can wave your card at the reader and vastly reduce the amount of time you spend talking to a human. And the fact that you *have* a NEXUS card means they don’t bother you so much anyway.

        And, of course, at airports you just stick your card into the kiosk and hand your receipt to the border dude, much like global entry coming into the US. No interrorgation!

  • Arianwen says:

    You put forward a good case! I would really like to visit Canada, especially Vancouver
    Arianwen recently posted..Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua: Be Safe; Be Responsible; Have a Blast!

  • Danielle says:

    I’m heading to Alberta this summer. (My first trip outside the US, too!) I’ve always loved staring at your pictures of Banff and all those beautiful lakes; can’t wait to see them in person! Also, super excited about the free parks pass. I’ll definitely be making use of that. Much thanks for all the Canada travel inspiration!

    (And belated congrats on your engagement, yay!)

    • Amanda says:

      You’re going to love Alberta in the summer! I do think parks like Banff are going to be really crowded this summer because of the free parks deal, but hopefully the extra people won’t take away from the beauty of the lakes and mountains!

  • Cheryl says:

    Yes, great reasons to visit Canada, especially as you mentioned with the exchange rate hovering around .75¢, its a great time for Americans to head north of the 49th parallel. And unfortunately or fortunately, depends on your outlook, for Canadians to stay home and discover their country because the exchange rate is making it tough to justify travel to the US right now. Thanks for this post!

    • Amanda says:

      I know the exchange rate is definitely best for everyone except Canadians! 😉 But yes, what a great excuse to stick closer to home and explore more of your own country if you’re Canadian!

  • Canada is such a great and beautiful country, in fact, my first visit was in Quebec and I never had a bad time. This is worth to visit.

  • Amelie says:

    I might also add something else: it’s huge! So you kind of need a lot of time to discover Canada.

    I have a trip planned for 2018 and if it all goes well, I’m going to spend two months there.
    Amelie recently posted..Choosing a dress by measures

  • Dmitri says:

    I lived in Canada all my life and this country is really amazing and it has so much to offer. From nightlife of Montreal to the great outdoors of BC.

    thanks for sharing with the whole world!!!

  • Moraine Lake is on my list! Thanks for sharing those photos. Also, your friend is crazy nice to drive 4 hours to come see you! I once met a friend about two-hours away but never 4. What a beautiful lake too!
    Julie @ Millennial Boss recently posted..Should You Take Time Off? In Defense Of The Gap Year

    • Amanda says:

      Yes, she’s pretty awesome! I wouldn’t have been able to see nearly as much without her. 🙂 Moraine Lake is amazing, but if you want to see it like it is in these photos, you’ll have to visit between June and early October – the road to the lake closes completely in the winter and doesn’t usually re-open until late May!

  • Canada is amazing really. Thank you for that beautiful photos. Niagara falls is magnificent from that view. I’ll plan a vacation to Canada a couple of times this year.

  • Pilot Mark says:

    What an amazing list! The scenery in Canada seems almost unbelievable in its beauty! The natural landscape reminds me very much of my trip to Alaska. Those resilient trees amongst such a harsh landscape, and the bright blue of the lakes, this is such a beautiful part of the continent! Excellent photos and great content!

  • Rob says:

    Unsurprisingly, given my heritage, I’ll be in Ottawa this year visiting friends. Burning some FF miles to include Ottawa in a loop that takes me down to North Carolina. I *am* avoiding Ottawa on Canada Day of the Sesquicentennial, though! It’ll be a zoo. Instead I’ll be celebrating Canada Day in Asheville, NC – day-hiking on the AT.

    I’m still amused when I think back to your freezing cold winter trip to Ottawa in 2012. As much as I love my hometown you won’t ever find me there in the winter again. But it was interesting to see it from someone else’s perspective!

    • Amanda says:

      I enjoyed Ottawa in the winter! (Then again, I’ve been making a habit of taking at least one cold-weather trip every winter – the cold doesn’t bother me as long as I pack enough layers!)

  • Ioanna says:

    Yes! I”m going to Canada this summer and I am so excited! Although I lived in the US for four years, the closest I got to Canada was Vermont 😉 This year I plan on going to Quebec (have a friend there) and spend about a month site seeing and mostly hiking. I plan on taking advantage of the free pass to national parks!

    Your photos are stunning 🙂

    Cheers!
    Ioanna
    A Woman Afoot
    Ioanna recently posted..Wandering in Gràcia: Discover Barcelona Beyond the Gothic Quarter and Sagrada Familia.

  • Lex says:

    I just came back from a trip to Canada. It was my first out of country trip, in fact! I went through Quebec City, Montreal, and Toronto. I had a blast! I loved how you could really see the European culture in Quebec and even Montreal. Quebec just seemed so prim and proper and dainty. Montreal felt, well I don’t know how to explain it, but really ALIVE. Toronto had more of a modernized international feel. I did get to swing by Niagara Falls, which was breathtaking. I also really loved the exchange rate. I got three nice dresses for around $120 usd. I also noticed that the indigenous cultures seemed to be more mixed in at the museums in Canada (which I really appreciated as I have indigenous ancestry).

    One thing I will say however is that I think the “friendly Canadian” thing is mostly just a myth. I was expecting some super nice people, but was surprised to find that walking down the street, if I smiled at someone passing by they would either frown back, give me a weird look, or just ignore me. Also I was bumped into with relative frequency and they just pushed past me while I was in the middle of an “Oh excuse me”. In Quebec City these two women working at a store tried to cheat us out of money (but I guess that can happen anywhere haha). One last thing that I guess is just an extra, but while we were on the road, and I was looking out the window to observe nature (my parents drove) I would make sure to smile at anybody driving by that I made eye contact with. No one smiled back or anything. I suppose that isn’t technically rude, but usually in the states at least two people would smile back, so I was kinda disappointed. Overall I had a lot of fun, but I did feel kind of feel awkward and a smidgen unwelcome due to not getting the friendly responses I was used to at home. I suppose none of these things are that bad, but I think it was especially hard on me as a teenage girl.

    If I go back, which I probably will, I’ll definitely want to spend more time in Quebec Province and really immerse myself in their thriving culture. I also want to do a trip up there sometime solely to focus on learning about my native american heritage.

    • Amanda says:

      Welllllll Quebec is a bit different from the rest of Canada. Many consider themselves French-Canadian instead of Canadian, so maybe that explains the lack of super-nice Canadian-ness?

  • Froide says:

    Great post! I’m impatiently awaiting conditional approval for NEXUS, so I can schedule my interview and, during that trip, (re)visit Montreal and Niagra Falls.

    I used to visit Canada regularly, in both summer and winter, for conferences, skiing, and the Montreal Jazz Fest, and I will resume that habit beginning this summer. I am also planning visits to Canada’s national parks and underground railroad sites, so thank you for your tip about the free national parks pass!

  • Canada is just sooo beautiful. Dreaming of going there someday <3

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